Medal of Honour of Mutuality, silvered bronze (Médaille d' Honneur de la Mutualité en bronze argenté)
Circular silvered bronze medal on oval laurel wreath suspension; the face with a full-length female figure in antique dress, symbolic of mutuality, her left hand on the shoulder of one of two aged men, a roll of money in her right, circumscribed ‘SOCIETES DE SECOURS MUTUELS’ (Societies of Mutual Assistance), signed ‘O. Roty’; the reverse with a decorated rectangular plaque below the inscribed ‘RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE’ and circumscribed ‘MINISTERE DU TRAVAIL ET DE LA PREVOYANCE SOCIALE’ (Ministry of Labour and Social Providence); with bronze assay marks on the edge; on original ribbon. The medal was created by the decrees of 26 and 30 March 1852 as the ‘Médaille des Sociétés de Secours Mutuels’ (Medal of the Societies of Mutual Assistance) and it was not until the law of 1 April 1898 that it was authorised for public wear as the ‘Médaille d' Honneur de la Mutualité’ (Medal of Honour of Mutuality). It was intended to recognise exceptional service by the officials and members of societies for mutual assistance. In the days before state support for the unemployed and sick, the system of mutual assistance societies was crucial in preventing dire hardship. This example is of the fifth version of the medal, designed by the great Art Nouveau medallist Louis-Oscar Roty (1846-1911).
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